Kitchen oliveoiltasting-3

Published on March 16th, 2011 | by Ruth


Bread Accessories: Olive Oil, Vinegar, And Wine

It’s said that man can­not live on bread alone, but what if you added olive oil and wine to the pic­ture? Throw in ba­con and some fresh veg­eta­bles from the farmer’s mar­ket orBerke­ley Bowl, and you have some of our re­cent meals. Good olive oil, it turns out, im­proves pret­ty much any food. Re­cent­ly we’ve tried out sev­er­al types, along with a few vine­gars some wine and a love­ly palate-cleans­ing bev­er­age.

One of our all-round fa­vorites was Cal­i­for­nia Olive Ranch’s 2010 Lim­it­ed Edi­tion Re­serve. The un­fil­tered oil is a lit­tle cloudy. Be­cause it’s bot­tled di­rect­ly from the press it has stronger fla­vor, but needs to be used with­in fair­ly quick­ly to get the full ex­tra fla­vor ad­van­tage. Use lots of olive oil? Oh no! The fla­vor is bright and rich, but not over­pow­er­ing. We en­joyed it driz­zled over fresh buf­fala moz­zarel­la with thin­ly sliced toma­toes, pur­ple basil and a sprin­kling of fleur de sel, served with toast­ed bread. The Lim­it­ed Edi­tion is sold out for this year, but mark your cal­en­dars for next year’s batch, due in Novem­ber. For now, try out some of Cal­i­for­nia Olive Ranch’s oth­er of­fer­ings. We found this year’s ver­sions of both the Miller’s Blend and the Ar­be­quina, which we have tried in the past, de­li­cious.

We were in­trigued by the palate di­ver­si­ty of O Olive Oil, so we tried a range of cit­rus fla­vors. The bay-area com­pa­ny has been mak­ing or­gan­ic oils and vine­gars since 1995. At our tast­ing, we tried Mey­er Lemon, Tahi­tian Lime, Clemen­tine, and Blood Or­ange olive oils. The Tahi­tian Lime was unan­i­mous­ly our group’s fa­vorite. It was clean, clear and limey, with­out tast­ing ar­ti­fi­cial. We liked it both for dip­ping bread and, lat­er, found it added great fla­vor to our pork chops, along with sprigs of rose­mary. We liked the Mey­er lemon too, though liked it bet­ter driz­zled over oven-roast­ed as­para­gus than alone or with bread. Our group was split on the Clemen­tine and Blood Or­ange oils. They were heavy, and the cit­rus bogged down the olive oil a bit, rather than smooth­ly com­pli­ment­ing it. On the oth­er hand, sev­er­al peo­ple en­joyed the nov­el­ty, and point­ed out they’d be fan­tas­tic with a beef roast, or some oth­er meat that could hold it’s own with it.

We al­so tast­ed an as­sort­ment of B. R. Cohn’s oils and vine­gars. The Bal­sam­ic & Herb Dip­ping Oil drew us in right away. It was ex­act­ly what you want when you’re look­ing for some­thing to pour in­to a bowl to serve with a nice crusty cia­bat­ta. We were al­so im­pressed by the Fig Bal­sam­ic. We’re big fans of thick bal­sam­ic vine­gars with a bit of fruit. This one was great on it’s own, and put a gourmet twist on our kitchen-pic­nic meal when sprin­kled on bread with olive oil, with as­sort­ed deli meats and or­gan­ic greens as filler. Add a side sal­ad with fresh straw­ber­ries, a hand­ful of pota­to chips and a cou­ple slices of crisp dill pick­le for a sim­ple, sat­is­fy­ing meal. They al­so have a 25-year bal­sam­ic that we al­most want­ed to drink. It would be mar­velous driz­zled over vanil­la gela­to. The Rasp­ber­ry Cham­pagne Vine­gar was al­so a hit – sour, but fruity, it would make a glo­ri­ous sum­mer sal­ad dress­ing.

B. R. Cohn’s Or­gan­ic Olive Oil was quite sol­id. The Tus­can was, ”Light, snap­py, al­most gar­licky.” When it came to their fla­vored olive oils, how­ev­er, we were dis­ap­point­ed. The Lime Olive Oil was metal­lic, with a nasty af­ter-taste. When tast­ed head-to-head with the O’s Tahi­tian Lime, there was no com­par­i­son. The Un­fil­tered Olive Oil elicit­ed com­ments in our group rang­ing from “Dirty-tast­ing,” to “In­ter­est­ing,” to “It makes my throat feel scratchy.” Glad to have tast­ed it, but not sure that we’d buy. We al­so tried the Grape­seed Oil. To be hon­est, I’m not sure if we would like oth­er grape­seed oils, but this one did not con­vert fans. Our take-home on B.R. Cohn – skip the oils, but run and grab the vine­gars.

Af­ter our oil and vine­gar tast­ing, we cooked our fa­vorite vari­a­tion on Pas­ta Car­bonara – penne with sauteed red, yel­low and green pep­pers, a sweet onion and mush­rooms sea­soned with cayenne, and crispy pieces of ba­con, all cov­ered in mashed-up soft­ly poached eggs and, of course, a healthy dol­lop of olive oil (we went with the Cal­i­for­nia Olive Ranch Lim­it­ed Re­serve) and a sprin­kling of salt and pep­per. Be­cause our pas­ta was so rich, we de­cid­ed to go with red wine. We paired it with Hall‘s well-bal­anced 2007 Caber­net Sauvi­gnon (avail­able for $44/bot­tle). The cayenne from the mush­rooms brought out a spicy side to the wine, which was oth­er­wise smooth and fruity, with­out be­ing over­ly big or brassy. We tried it again an­oth­er night with­out food and found it vel­vety, with hints of vanil­la. At $44 dol­lars a bot­tle it isn’t a bar­gain, but it’s a sol­id, ver­sa­tile wine that won’t dis­ap­point. Af­ter see­ing pho­tos of a chan­de­lier that looks like a roots sys­tem (“Chilean Red” by artist Don­ald Lip­s­ki), daz­zling with 1500 Swarovs­ki crys­tals, we’re look­ing for­ward to plan­ning a trip up to the Na­pa vine­yard.

We al­so sipped Hall’s 2009 Sauvi­gnon Blanc ($22/bot­tle). It had a flo­ral nose, and we al­most ex­pect­ed it to be sparkling at first sip. The acid­i­ty was the strik­ing char­ac­ter­is­tic for us. We liked the min­er­als, but found it lack­ing the clean af­ter we were look­ing for. It soft­ened with air, with some cit­rus notes emerg­ing.

Speak­ing of bev­er­ages… San­tasti is a fan­tas­tic new bev­er­age cre­at­ed for clear­ing the palate (Avail­able on­line for about $22/12 pack, plus tax.). A clear, light­ly car­bon­at­ed bev­er­age, San­tasti was for­mu­lat­ed to bal­ance sweet­ness, acid­i­ty and as­trin­gen­cy. Un­like many sparkling wa­ters, San­tasti lim­its the min­er­al and salt con­tent that con­tam­i­nate your palate, rather than re­fresh­ing it. We were es­pe­cial­ly hap­py to run in­to the San­tasti booth at the Zin­fan­del Fes­ti­val. Halfway through tast­ing it pro­vid­ed a re­fresh­ing re­set. We al­so en­joyed drink­ing the cu­cum­ber va­ri­ety as a stand-alone drink.

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About the Author

The ampersand tattoo on her shoulder goes a long way towards explaining Ruth's outlook on life: there's always an "and." With TrulyNet, Ruth enjoys working on social media and writing... and editing... and... Ruth went to the University of Oregon, where she studied music, dance and cognitive psychology (and sleeping very little). While there, she designed classes and taught arts enrichment to talented and gifted grade-school students. After graduation, Ruth spent several years as a Market Analyst at a large law firm in New York. Feeling the pull back to the west coast, Ruth moved to San Francisco and worked for Stanford for a year before deciding to focus on her passion for the arts. Ruth spends more time on Facebook that she cares to admit. When not attached to the computer, working for TrulyNet, or dancing, Ruth rock climbs, knits, swims, obsessively plays Boggle, plays games, plays tennis, cooks, sips beer, wine and whiskey, and travels seeking adventure.

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